Venture Capital

Endocrine experts at Crinetics bag $63.5M to push R&D on an experimental pill for acromegaly

R. Scott Struthers

It’s been more than two years since Crinetics bagged its $40 million launch round to get started on pipeline building. And now that they’re into the clinic with their first drug, they just scored an extra $63.5 million to pursue some clinical proof-of-concept data to show the world if they’re on the right track.

San Diego-based Crinetics was founded by three key players out of Neurocrine Biosciences: CEO R. Scott Struthers, VP of chemistry Frank Zhu and Stephen Betz, the VP of biology.

They had all worked on nonpeptide GnRH antagonists, and Struthers was in charge of the original team developing elagolix, later outlicensed to AbbVie (and just today successfully through its second Phase III for uterine fibroids). It’s widely expected to be approved soon for endometriosis.

Frank Zhu

The team at Crinetics have been working on new drugs after developing some novel thoughts about the way GPCRs work. The lead program is focused on acromegaly, a rare disease triggered when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone, causing enlarged bones that can lead to gigantism, which caused Andre the Giant to swell in size. It also ultimately killed him.

Somatostatin can rein that in, but synthetic somatostatin analogs don’t always work. That leaves the biotech in the hunt for a small molecule that can. They also have a growing preclinical pipeline behind that.

Stephen Betz

Perceptive Advisors led the round, with new investors RA Capital and OrbiMed jumping in. Existing investors 5AM Ventures, Versant Ventures and Vivo Capital also took part.

The biotech is conducting a Phase I study for the nonpeptide somatostatin agonist CRN00808. And they started out working with the belief that a small team could manage this through Phase III.

“A small company,” Struthers told me back in 2015, “could take this all the way.”

They now have the money to see if they can take it much further into the clinic.


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